It’s the summer of construction here in Indiana. We’ve had three different stretches of three different main highways closed this summer. Another long stretch is closed up through the end of August. It’s at times an annoyance or interference. If three lanes are turned into two lanes it’s an annoyance; if the whole road is shut down it’s interference. During the qualification session at MidOhio this past month, the announces discussed how INDYCAR Director of Race Control, Kyle Novak, indicated they won’t penalize a driver during qualifications if their actions simply annoy the other driver instead of interfering. It’s a very subjective and factor-driven statement.
Starting with the language of the rule. According to 8.3.6 a car will be penalized if the “Car interferes with the Qualifications attempt of another Car”. Breaking the rule down, which yes this is exactly what I went to school for, you have two main points. Is there interference? Was the other Car on a qualification attempt? Looking at interference, it goes back to the discussion on if the action was interfering or simply annoying. Did the action truly interrupt or mess with another Car, or was it just an annoying circumstance? Secondly, Race Control would have to look at the other Car involved. Were they on a flying lap? Was it an out lap? Is the other Car actually slower?
Think of if through examples:
- If there isn’t the ability to create a cap for clean air: that’s an annoyance.
- If the Car up front suddenly, for no reason, slows up causing the trailing Car to slow: that’s interference.
- If a Car pulls out of pit lane into the line of another Car: that’s interference.
- If the Car upfront slows due to some type of train car effect: that’s an annoyance.
I don’t envy the job of Race Control. I do think I’d make a great director of Race Control…but that’s for another day. This is one of those extremely subjective calls that can with each situation given the various factors involved in qualifications and qualifying laps. At least it’s pretty straightforward with Red Flags during Qualifications (and we haven’t had one of those in a while, thank goodness!).